Saturday, September 02, 2006

After the Shuttle. Disaster.

When the Columbia Shuttle broke up in February 2003, I wrote a rapid reaction piece (it was a Saturday) in The Sunday Times - see Selected Articles. The gist of that piece was that the Shuttle programme as a whole had been one long disaster. I also glowed nostalgically about the days of the great white rockets of the Apollo programme. NASA, catastrophically, has plainly misunderstood and taken my words too literally. They have decided - see here - to replicate Apollo with only minor adjustments. They have given this $3.9 billion contract to Lockheed Martin.
This craft, I forecast, will never get built. Private sector space programmes like Burt Rutan's - also see Selected Articles - will render its technology obsolete within five years. And, even if that doesn't happen, the Indians or the Chinese will get back to the moon first with something better. NASA should have been broken up as soon as it became clear just how bad the Shuttle was. Instead, it is ploughing on with bad technology and the same old relationships with its suppliers. I wouldn't mind - but, well, something in me still misses the great days of The Right Stuff. It's a boy thing.

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